The Network in the Garden – how social media is different in rural communities

So, I think I’ve solved my “I dislike WordPress” problem by using ScribeFire which I got working after a lot of back and forth with my techie people at ibiblio and some help from Ask MetaFilter. Can you imagine your librarian helping you get your blog software working?

Speaking of, I’ve been reading an old but great paper about social networking stuff and how its used differently in rural communities. This is science stuff not just “here’s what we think people are doing on facebook…” and I think you’ll like it. It’s called The Network in the Garden: An Empirical Analysis of Social Media in Rural Life and it’s a numbers analysis of how people are using MySpace in urban versus rural areas. You can also see it as slides prepared for the CHI conference. The slides are quite good at getting some basic points across.

The conclusions are a little surprising to me and I live in a rural area [interesting side note, when I move up the street next month I will no longer be living in a rural area because Randolph has a slightly higher population than Bethel] and social media is still not on the radar of a lot of novice computers users. I think this information will help me help people understand what it’s all about.

Rural and urban people use social media very differently: four of our five hypotheses were confirmed. Rural people articulate far fewer friends, and those friends are located much closer to home. Women occupy a much greater segment of the rural user base than the urban user base. Rural users, particularly rural women, also set their profiles to private at higher rates than urban users. However, both rural and urban users seem to communicate with roughly the same proportions of strong and weak ties.

Side note: I’m going to talk to the principal of the high school today to talk about the dissolution of my job for next year. Not expecting any big changes but maybe at least a little more understanding about what happened and focus on what to do next.

2 Responses to “The Network in the Garden – how social media is different in rural communities”

  1. Facebook in the boondocks | Mesoj Says:

    [...] West, librarian extraordinaire and the best friend I have in Vermont, has caught an interesting article on social networking in rural [...]

  2. Julian Says:

    This is an excellent find. I somehow missed this article when I was “borrowing” some items from danah boyd’s bibliography for my reading list for my LIS school research. The strength of weak ties, which is cited in the paper, is huge when considering how rural librarians connect with their profession. Mix that in with the overall demographic trends within the profession (which likely show more prominently as one moves away from urban areas), and what one may discover should be quite interesting. However, as Alton Brown so often says, that’s another show (hopefully premiering sometime in 2010).